“Well done, Ruth” Miss Smith smiled, handing me back my practice paper. “You got a C, and you were only 2 marks off a B! All your hard work is paying off.”
I smiled, finally, some good news. I could do this. I didn’t have to fail.
My phone buzzed under the table, checking that no-one was looking, I read the message.
‘Want to come to a party at mine tonight? You can invite Mark if you wanna
‘Yeah, I need to celebrate!
I text back. I then decided that I would text Mark and invite him too.
I stumbled out of Lucy’s flat, and made my way to a bench on the park opposite. I closed my eyes and tried to get my brain to think straight.
“God, Ruth. I’ve never seen anyone drink that much. I’d have passed out ages ago if that were me.” I heard Mark’s voice laugh.
“Yeah, well, I ain’t a lightweight like you.” I smiled, my eyes still closed.
I felt Mark sit down next to me; he hit me gently on the arm “I am not a lightweight. You must just have a ridiculously strong liver.” I could hear the smile in his voice. I opened my eyes, the world was blurry for a few seconds before I could see straight again.
“I’m celebrating. I’m allowed to get drunk.” I said
“I am no longer failing biology.” I said, punching the air as a sign of celebration.
Mark laughed, “Well done.”
We sat in silence for a few moments.
“So, how’re your cousins?” He asked quietly.
“Fine,” I said. I didn’t like his tone; it was like he was building up to ask me something he knew I wouldn’t like, “And what is it you really wanna ask me?”
I raised one eyebrow at him, and he smiled slightly.
“I wanted to ask…” Then he stopped
“Well?” I pushed
“You don’t have to answer but,” He took a deep breath, “I wanted to know, why exactly you live with your aunt and uncle?” He said it all in one go, so it took me a moment to figure out what he had said.
“You mean, what happened to my parents?”
He nodded, and I sighed. I didn’t want to talk about this. I never spoke about this.
“They’re dead.” I said bluntly.
“I’m sorry” He said weakly
“Whatever, I’m over it.” I hated myself the second I said it. Was I hell over it, I don’t know why I did this. Pretending not to care. Pretending like my mum meant nothing to me. Pretending like what my dad didn’t haunt me still. I could feel the tears spilling down my cheeks, I pushed them away. I will not cry.
“Ruth…” Mark said, trying to put his arm around me, I pushed him away, standing up. I walked as quick as I could manage, blinking away tears and trying not to fall over. My head was still spinning from the drink, and I was having trouble walking in a straight line.
“Ruth! Ruth, come back,” Mark called, following me “Don’t run away from this.”
“Leave me alone!” He grabbed my arm, and turned me to face him
“Why did you have to bring this up?” I shouted, “Why do you have to ruin everything!”
Tears were pouring down my cheeks, and I could feel sobs rising.
“Ruth, come on. You can’t keep running away.”
Then I just started sobbing. I hated myself for crying. But I hated myself even more for this being the first time I’d cried in eight years. I felt Mark’s arms around me, and I let him guide me somewhere, where we sat down. We sat there for a few moments while I got my breathing steady.
“You don’t have to talk about it Ruth, but I think it’ll do you good.” Mark whispered.
I nodded, and sat up straight. I pulled a mirror out of my bag, and tried to clean my face up as much as I could. I then took a deep breath, and turned back to face Mark. I started to tell my story, for the first time:
“My parents met when they were still teenagers, my dad was from a really rich family. They have loads of money and a big house and all that crap. My mum was poor, from a poor family; she grew up in a council house. So, my grandparents weren’t too happy when my dad announced that he wanted to marry my mum. But by the time the wedding came around they were both dead, my dad was an only child, so he inherited everything.” I took another deep breath to steady myself. “My dad wanted a son, to inherit everything. My parents spent years trying for a baby; I don’t know when it started, but eventually my dad…” I stopped. Mark left me for a few moments, just waiting for me to start up again. “My dad started hitting my mum. It got worse after I was born, he’d go on all the time about how my mum was useless, how they’d wanted a son but she couldn’t give him one. When I was born, it was a really difficult labour, and it left her unable to have more children. He used to hit her all the time, everyday. I’d stay in my room, hiding under my bed, just waiting for it to stop.
“Then, when I was nine, my mum found out that she had cancer. She was riddled with it, the doctors said there was nothing that they could do, and they gave her three months to live. I guess this terrified her, she knew when she died, my dad would start on me. She couldn’t bare the thought of leaving me to that, of leaving me alone with him. So, she bought some cyanide, and put it in his tea one morning. And killed him.” I stopped again for a few moments, trying to steady myself.
“The police came, and arrested her. She gave a full confession, and then killed herself in her cell, leaving me a note. ‘I did it for you - Mummy.’ That’s all it said. But I understand. And I don’t blame her, she did the right thing. She didn’t have a choice.”